- Libertarianism includes a broad spectrum of political philosophies, each sharing the common overall priority of minimal government combined with optimum possible individual Liberty.
- Its goals prioritize freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to bear arms, freedom of and from religion, freedom of the press, freedom of ownership and economic freedom.
- It promotes personal responsibility and private charity, as opposed to the provision of welfare services by the state, and it rejects the compulsions of socialism and communism.
- Individual libertarians may differ considerably over particular issue and, although there are libertarian political parties worldwide, even these differ significantly in their outlooks and policies.
- There is also a significant disparity between the usage of the term in the United States( where it is often considered synonymous with liberalism and individualism in general, and conservatism in particular, especially insofar as it supports limited government) and elsewhere( but it is most often understood to refer to radical leftist currents of Anarchism).
- Generally, libertarians defend the ideal of freedom from the perspective of how little one is constrained by authority, that is how much one is allowed to do( negative Liberty), as opposed to the opportunity and ability to act to fulfill one’s own potential( Positive Liberty), a distinction first noted by John Stuart Mill.
- They view life, Liberty and property as the ultimate rights possessed by individuals, and that compromising one necessarily endangers the rest.
- They consider compromise of these individual rights by political action to be “tyranny of the majority”, a term first coined by Alexis de Tocqueville, and made famous by John Stuart Mill.
- Many libertarians would also argue, however, that representative majority rule democracy has all largely become controlled by special interest groups who represent a minority, leading to a “tyranny of the minority” against the real numerical majority.
- The term “Libertarian” stems from the French world Libertaire(For Liberty), and its first recorded use in a political sense was in 1857 by Anarcho-Communist Joseph Dejacque.
- In common usage, “libertarian” refers to a person who advocates Liberty, especially with regards to thought or conduct, or a person who maintains the doctrine of free will.
History of libertarianism:
- The history of Libertarianism is also the history of Classical Liberalism, and the two concepts are very closely related.
- The initial theory arouse from enlightenment ideas in 18th century Europe and America, especially the political philosophies of John Locke and Montesquieu, and the moral and economic philosophy of Adam Smith.
- The French philosopher Montesquieu developed a distinction between sovereign and administrative powers, and propose a separation of powers( usually into the executive, the legislative and the judicial) to act as a counterweight to the natural tendency of administrative power to grow at the expense of individual rights.
- This became an important concept in both constitutional monarchy’s and republics.
- While, Locke believed that the role of any legislature was to protect natural rights in the legal form of civil rights.
- He proposed a labour theory of property whereby each individual owns the fruits of his efforts by virtue of his labor, and from this an economy emerges based on private property and trade, with money as the medium of exchange.
- Adam Smith’s moral philosophy stretch government non-intervention so that individuals could achieve whatever their “God given talents” would allow without interference from arbitrary forces.
- He also opposed trade Guilds( forerunners to modern unions) and joint stock companies( or corporations) for the same reasons.
- The founding fathers of the United States enshrined the protection of Liberty as the primary purpose of government in the Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the United States constitution, and Thomas Jefferson in particular was key in establishing the Law of Equal Liberty and the non-aggression principle as major tenants.
- Very similar ideas were also included in the French declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789, a key document in the French Revolution.
- John Stuart Mill declared that his preferred doctrine of Utilitarianism requires that political arrangement satisfy the “Liberty Principle”, whereby each person is guaranteed the greatest possible Liberty that would not interfere with the Liberty of others, in order to maximize happiness.
- In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Progressivism in the United States and Socialism in Europe increasingly focused on the advancement of worker’s rights and social justice to counteract the increasing access of rampant capitalism and industrialism.
- It was only in the latter half of the 20th century that the term libertarian which had earlier been associated with Anarchism, came to be adopted by those whose attitudes bore closer resemblance to the classical liberals.
Types of Libertarianism:
- Rights Libertarianism( or Rights Theory or Libertarian Moralism or Deontological libertarianism):
- Rights Theorists assert that: (a) all persons are the absolute owners of their lives, and should be free to do whatever they wish with their own bodies or property, provided they do not infringe on the rights of another to do the same( the law of equal Liberty); and (b) That aggression, or the initiation of physical force or the threat of such, against a person or his property, is inherently illegitimate insofar as it impinges on the equal rights of a person( the non-aggression principle), except in the case of self-defense.
- This view of “natural rights” drives from the early writings of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.
- Most Rights Libertarians recognize the necessity of a limited role of government as a “necessary evil” to protect individuals from any violation of their rights, and to prosecute those who initiate force against others( Minarchism), although some opposes the existence of government and taxation altogether on the grounds that it represents non-aggression against individual rights by its very nature( Anarcho-Capitalism).
- Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard are representatives of this view of libertarianism.
Consequentialist Libertarianism( or Libertarian Consequentialism):
- Consequentialist libertarianism justifies the rights of individuals or pragmatic or consequentialist, as well as moral, grounds( consequentialism is the moral theory that the consequences of a particular action from the basis or any valid moral judgement about that action).
- They are less concerned with the non-aggression principle and more concerned with the notion of a society that allows individuals to enjoy political and economic Liberty, which they see as foundation for the human happiness and prosperity.
- They argue that individual Liberty leads to economic efficiency and other benefits, and it does the most effective means of promoting or enhancing social welfare.
- Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, and Frederick Hayek, major proponents of this view.
- Broadly falling under Libertarianism, Liberalism is a political view based on Liberty and equality.
- Liberals generally support civil rights, democracy, secularism, gender equality, internationalism, and the freedoms of speech, the press, religion and markets.
- Liberalism became a distinct movement in the age of enlightenment, when it became popular among western philosophers and economists.
- Liberalism sought to replace the norms of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, the divine right of Kings and the traditional conservatism and representative democracy and the rule of law.
- Liberals also ended mercantilists policies, Royal monopolies and other barriers to trade, instead promoting free markets.
- Philosopher John Locke often credited with founding liberalism as a distinct tradition, arguing that each man has a natural right to life, Liberty and property, adding that government must not violate these rights based on the Social Contract.
- While the British liberal tradition has emphasized expanding democracy, French liberalism has emphasized rejecting authoritarianism and is linked to nation building.
- Liberalism is perhaps the most popular form of government across all democracies of the world, including India, Western Europe and United States.
- Liberalism and Pluralism are similar in the sense that both support equality, tolerance and democracy.
- In fact, Pluralism is a principle which developed by the Liberals in nothing but a part of the Liberal tradition.
- Further, both of them seek social change through the institutions of democracy viz. Political Parties and Universal Adult Franchise.